Space launch trends

Robert Zimmerman posts stats and commentary on launch industry trends going back to 1998. I’m not going to swipe his chart but it is interesting. He breaks U.S. launches down to government, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, United Launch Alliance, Orbital ATK, SpaceX, and then leaves blanks for forthcoming Virgin Galactic, Rocket Lab and Neptune. Then he lists other countries’ steadily increasing numbers of launches.

(Note: United Launch Alliance (ULA) is Lockheed Martin’s and Boeing’s combined effort. Orbital ATK does the aircraft-launched satellites mentioned last month.)

The initial impression you get from the chart is that U.S. launches have dropped, but not just us. Even the Russians have had their issues lately, although theirs are temporary. Here, Zimmerman adds context:

Had there not been launch failures for both SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Russia’s Proton in 2016 we easily could have seen another two dozen launches, bringing the total above 100 for the year, the first time that would have happened since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Then, after a few caveats, he says:

And most important, the shift in the U.S. from a government-controlled space program to a wildly competitive and chaotic private sector launch industry is fueling this boom. There is now money to be made in space, and there is freedom to pursue those profits without waiting for NASA and the government to lay out a program.

Space could be a bit like the Kindle book-writing revolution, but for billionaires.